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Tracks falters at championships

By David Rothstein

NAPERVILLE, IL -- The track and field team's success at the NCAA Division III outdoor championships depended mostly on the success of senior standouts Bill Singhose and Boniface Makatiani.

The former was the defending champion in the decathlon, and was also to compete in the pole vault, long jump, and as part of the 400-meter and 1600-meter relays. The latter was the defending indoor national 400-meter champion and a favorite in the outdoor race, and was also part of both relays.

When both Singhose and Makatiani suffered hamstring muscle strains during the May 23-26 championship meet at North Central College's Kroehler Field, MIT's well-founded hopes for a first-place finish went out like a light. The Engineers finished with 21 points, good only for a tie for 12th place.

Lincoln University (PA), the indoor national champions, again took first place, with 49 points, followed by the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh (45), the University of Nebraska, Wesleyan (421/2) and the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire (41).

Eight of MIT's 21 points came from John-Paul Clarke '91, a surprise second-place finisher in the hammer throw, and eight more from Singhose, who managed a second-place finish in the decathlon despite suffering an injury during the fifth event.

The past year has seen the track and field peaking for a national championship. After tying for fifth place at last year's outdoor nationals, the team placed second at the March indoor championships. With what might have been MIT's strongest team ever and everybody healthy, a championship crown appeared in sight.

Singhose struggles to second

Until the last minutes of Day One of the competition, everything seemed to be going MIT's way. Both of MIT's entries in the hammer -- Clarke and senior Eric Shank -- cleared the qualifying round, while Singhose advanced to the final rounds in the open competitions of the long jump and pole vault, and was at the front of the decathlon field after four events.

In addition, the 400-meter relay team, made up of Mark Dunzo '91, Kevin Scannell '92, Singhose and Makatiani, set a school record with a 41.63-second run that put it into the finals.

It was that relay, however, that was the beginning of a sequence of events that ended in Singhose's injury.

After running in the relay, Singhose competed in the open long jump, finished jumping in the decathlon high jump, at which point his calf muscle started cramping. Because he still had to compete in the decathlon 400, Singhose stopped jumping, and as temperatures dropped in the chilly Illinois evening, he went to the stands to wait and work off his cramp.

Singhose went out strong in the 400, making up two staggers in the first 80 meters, but he ran flat, favoring his calf. At the 200 meter mark his left hamstring gave out, and Singhose had to limp home in a slow 53-second time.

That race put him second in the standings to eventual winner and last year's runner-up Kevin Luthy of Case Western Reserve. Singhose clung to that second place all during Day Two, competing with a heavily-bandaged leg. He finished the last decathlon event, the 1500 meters, dead last, in obvious pain.

Later Singhose called it his "greatest triumph ever."

Makatiani also injured

MIT's other most-important hamstring gave way on Day Two, as Makatiani first felt pain in his leg during the 1600-meter relay trials. Scannell, Dunzo, alternate Garret Moose '91 and Makatiani ran a respectable 3:15.18 to finish second in their heat and qualify for the relay finals.

The same four ran to a seventh-place finish in the 400 relay (42.87 seconds) on Day Three, but Makatiani felt pain again, and entered the open 400-meter final the next day with a bandaged leg. Running in fourth and feeling strong at the 300-meter point in the race, Makatiani started to accelerate, hoping to pass the other runners on the homestretch. But his leg would not cooperate, and he finished a disappointing seventh, in 48.18.

Later that afternoon Makatiani put the finishing touches on a painful strain with his third leg on the 1600 relay final. Again at the 300-meter mark he accelerated, and again his leg gave way, this time with a "pop" that he felt.

"I though I would never run again," said Makatiani later.

Dunzo brought the baton home in a hard-run but futile anchor leg for a 3:23.17 last place.

Makatiani conceded that "this was a bad way of finishing" for himself and the team, but maintained his hope in accomplishing his ultimate goal in qualifying for the national team of Kenya, his native country. He will train in Boston and work out with the MIT team while working at the Media Laboratory, and may at some point return to MIT as a graduate student. He has one full year of eligibility remaining.

Clarke's throw in the hammer came during the chilly rains that descended on Naperville during Day Three. Clarke threw 166'-1" two days before to qualify for the final round, but knew he would have to throw farther in the finals.

Although he managed only two legal throws of the six allotted him, he made those two count. The second of three preliminary throws soared 179'-2", a personal best for Clarke. He opened the second round of three with a 175-foot toss and then watched at St. Thomas' Ben Bautch released a long throw in his final attempt . . . 179'-0". Luck was with MIT at least this time.

Triple jump mark set

Other notables in the men's competition included Haverford College's Seamus McElligott, who won both the 5000 meters (14:29.57) and the 10000 meters (30:05.44), and North Central College's 26-year-old Jan Cado -- a member of the Czechoslovak national team before he defected to the United States -- who set an NCAA Division III record in the outdoor triple jump with a 53'-23/4" mark.

MIT's Sean Kelley '89 competed in the 10000 meters, but suffered stomach cramps early in the race and finished 12th, in 31:28.4. Triple jumper Kelly Davis '92 fouled on two of his three qualifying jumps and failed to make it to the final round.

This meet marked the end of the three-year career of Bill Singhose, who transferred to MIT from the University of Oregon. It was the last, for now, for Boniface Makatiani.

And the last for Gordon Kelly, who retired after 28 years as assistant and head coach.

Maybe a national title was a lot to expect from a small team, said Kelly after the meet. "Maybe what we saw was the result of a long, competitive championships season. But we try to do well in every meet that we [enter].

"We give it what we've got in each meet."